A favorite product is the cosmetic equivalent of pure gold, worthy of stockpiling during a sale and shunning comparable items that amount to fool's dust. When I find a favorite item, I tend to stick with it and never turn back- which is why I have gone through 8 tubes of the exact same mascara in the past 5 years. (If you do the math, you'll discover that I don't strictly abide by the "toss after 3 months rule"- shh it's our little secret ) Nonetheless, my lashes were feeling ready for a change (and my supply was dwindling), so I chucked my last loyal Lancome Definicils waterproof mascara in the bin and ventured into the unknown- toward Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes! Mascara.

This relatively new addition to Tarte's eyelash product line, which includes the Lash Hugger and the MultiplEye Natural Lash Enhancer, is now one of its best-sellers, listed as out of stock on Tarte's own website. Lights, Camera, Lashes! ($18) purports to increase lash volume by 430%. Marketed as a 4-in-1 product, this mascara is meant to not only lengthen and volumize, but also to curl and condition lashes.

How does it accomplish all four tasks? Natural emollients, such as waxes from rice bran, candelilla cera (derived from Euphorbia Cerifera), and carnauba (derived from the leaves of the Carnauba palm), coat the lashes to give them a longer appearance and ensure a smooth application. Meanwhile panthenol, or provitamin B5, provides the volumizing action. This natural lubricant makes lashes look thicker by binding to each hair, sealing the follicles, and moisturizing the shafts.

All of these nourishing ingredients, rarely found in a mass-market mascara, condition and encourage healthy lashes. Additionally, Tarte includes natural olive esters to protect against breakage and the synthetic silicone cyclopentasiloxane to further lubricate. Although the ingredients effectively condition, volumize, and lengthen, there is little to stimulate noticeable curl (nothing that a quick press in a lash curler can't fix). Instead of lash-bashing synthetic dyes, Tarte uses safely softening iron oxide mineral pigments.

Free of petrochemicals, fragrances, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and talc, the formula is largely clean of all the major offenders. Unfortunately, it is not free of phenoxyethanol and chlorphenesin, the two guilty ingredients that motivated the FDA to issue a warning against Mommy's Bliss nipple cream. There's also TEA, a common allergen and possible carcinogen. In spite of these potential irritants, my contact-wearing, hypersentitive eyes never batted an eyelash.

Although I am accustomed to waterproof mascara, risk-free of the raccoon effect, I was impressed with the longevity of Tarte's product. Mostly due to acacia senegal gum, Lights, Camera, Lashes! is quickly drying and relatively smear-proof. Once I mastered the art of letting the black glaze dry for a full minute without blinking or looking up, I never had a problem with smudges, even after getting caught in a rainstorm. Definicils may be more dependable in the water resistance department if you're going swimming or taking a shower, but for everyday use, Lights, Camera, Lashes! holds its own.

The formulas of Lancome and Tarte share some of the same beneficial components, including carnauba wax and panthenol, but Definicils throws in a pack of unpleasant preservatives. After years of wearing Definicils (which was sometimes only partly removed before bedtime), I noticed that my lashes had begun to look brittle. Lights, Camera, Lashes! not only clumps less and applies with minimal buildup, but it also seems to have made my lashes stronger and more pliant. Its fluid consistency coats the lashes evenly, grabbing a hold of each hair and accentuating in proportion to how many layers are brushed on. Based on performance alone, Tarte's 4-in-1 mascara wins on at least three counts.

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Ingredients in Lights, Camera, Lashes!

Aqua, alcohol, oryza sativa (rice) bran wax, cyclopentasiloxane, hydrogenated stearyl olive esters, stearic acid, cera carnauba, triethanolamine, candelilla cera, acacia senegal gum, panthenol, VP/VA copolymer, phenoxyethanol, polyvinyl alcohol, aminomethyl propanediol, chlorphenesin, iron oxides (CI 77499).

Ingredients in Definicils:

Water/Aqua, Paraffin, Stearic Acid, Triethanolamine, Acacia Senegal/Acacia, Beeswax/Cera Alba, Carnauba Wax/Carnauba, Simethicone, Sodium Polymethacrylate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Panthenol, Polyquaternium-10, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. May contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide/CI 77891, Carmine/CI 75470, Iron Oxides/ CI 77490, CI 77491, CI 77499, Chromium Hydroxide Green/CI 77289, Chromium Oxide Greens/CI 77288, Ultramarines/CI 77007, B4177/1